The San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes have each been atop the
Pacific Division in the past two weeks.
Neither, however, has been able to maintain that position.
In a matchup between teams desperate for two points, the
scuffling Sharks and Coyotes take the ice Saturday night in
By opening 2012 with a 10-3-2 run, San Jose (33-24-9) took over
first in the division, and it looked like Todd McLellan’s team was
primed to capture its fifth straight Pacific title. A 5-3 loss at
Phoenix on Feb. 4, however, took the steam out of the Sharks’ surge
and gave life to the Coyotes.
Starting with the win over San Jose – highlighted by two goals
from Lauri Korpikoski – Phoenix went 11-0-1 in February. As the
Sharks proceeded to free fall, the Coyotes (33-25-10) moved into a
first-place tie with San Jose on Feb. 21 after trailing by 12
points three weeks earlier.
Phoenix has gone 0-4-1 this month, however, and now trails
Pacific-leading Dallas by three points.
San Jose is also winless in March (0-2-2) and is 4-10-3 since
losing to the Coyotes last month to drop four points back of the
The Sharks were on the verge of earning two points in Dallas on
Thursday after Joe Pavelski put them in front 3-2 with his 24th
goal at 16:28 of the third period. Tomas Vincour tied the score
with 15 seconds left in regulation, however, and had the lone goal
in the shootout to hand San Jose a 4-3 loss.
“We just can’t give up that last goal,” said Pavelski, who has
scored twice in his last 12 games. “There definitely was some good
out there, but it’s tough to accept when you don’t get two points.
We’ve got to find a way to win.”
The Coyotes are feeling the same way, looking to avoid their
first six-game skid since Jan. 27-Feb. 7, 2009.
Phoenix showed some fight Thursday against Minnesota, rallying
from a two-goal deficit in the third period as Raffi Torres and
Korpikoski scored, but it fell in a shootout 3-2.
The Coyotes allowed two first-period goals and have been
outscored 10-1 in the opening 20 minutes over their last five
“We’re not the kind of team geared to come from behind,” backup
goaltender Jason LaBarbera said. “We play better with a lead, and
that’s our identity. When you’re chasing the game, it makes
everything much more difficult on everybody.”
The Coyotes could have better luck against a Sharks team that
has scored two first-period goals in its last four games.
Both teams might be in better shape if they could get their
power plays going.
The Coyotes are 2 for 21 with the man advantage during their
losing streak, while the Sharks have failed to score on all 10
power-play chances during their skid.
San Jose’s offense as a whole has been sluggish lately, scoring
three goals or fewer in 11 straight games and no more than two in
eight of them. Logan Couture, tied with Patrick Marleau for the
team lead with 27 goals, has gone a season-worst six games without
That lack of firepower has made things tough on Antti Niemi, who
has a 2.18 goals-against average in starting all four games of the
Sharks’ losing streak. In his lone start of the season against the
Coyotes last month, Niemi allowed four goals on 23 shots.
Phoenix’s Mike Smith has been between the pipes for the season’s
first three meetings, going 2-1-0 with a 3.03 GAA. He is 0-3-0 with
a 3.63 GAA in his last four starts.